Philadelphia-based online ticketing service TicketLeap’s beginnings couldn’t have been more humble.

In 2003, Chris Stanchak was an undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. A friend needed to sell tickets for an event he was hosting in New York City, but it was too small for the big online ticketing corporations to take on. So he approached Stanchak—who set up the basics of what would become TicketLeap.

The ticketing system performed flawlessly. The event itself? Not so much—it was canceled.

But the TicketLeap idea had been born—as had its central no-client-too-small philosophy. From there grew a full-service event promotion and online ticketing system that handled $35 million in ticket sales last year, and appeared on both the Inc. 500 and Philadelphia 100 lists.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners helped TicketLeap take off.Most importantly, TicketLeap is “more than just a cash register on the web,” said founder Stanchak, who serves as company CEO. “We’re a platform to help grow events. We make the process a lot easier, more fun and more successful for everybody.”

From Side Project to Industry Leader

For several years, TicketLeap was a one-man shop, with Stanchak treating it as a “fun side project” alongside his full-time work at a King of Prussia eCommerce provider.

In 2007, following four years of steady sales growth, TicketLeap officially hired its first employee—Stanchak’s mother, Connie—and attracted its first round of outside angel investors. Things really took off in 2008, when the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP) made the first of what would become $525,000 in investments.

BFTP’s involvement was key, Stanchak said. In addition to a major cash infusion and advice on management, branding and website design, BFTP offered invaluable networking and exposure in the Philadelphia entrepreneurial community.

“The best thing about Ben Franklin for us, in addition to helping us advance our technology, was the attention they brought to the company,” Stanchak said. “Everybody knows who Ben Franklin is. Having them as an investor gave us immediate credibility. Every fund in the area became aware of us. That wouldn’t have happened otherwise.”

“The best thing about Ben Franklin for us, in addition to helping us advance our technology, was the attention they brought to the company,” TicketLeap founder and CEO Chris Stanchak said.

TicketLeap has since gone through several rounds of venture funding, growing from one part-timer to 25 employees in their Center City office.

A Culture of Innovation

TicketLeap hasn’t merely grown. It has evolved.

By the middle of 2010, the company was growing by leaps and bounds. But Stanchak and the rest of the team knew they had a problem. In a world of lightning-fast change, the original system was aging, rapidly falling off the cutting edge of the online ticketing industry.

Some companies would have taken baby steps, steadily creeping further and further behind the curve. But TicketLeap considered the most current best practices, their own expertise—and then started over entirely from scratch.

“It was like building a second airplane while you’re already flying one,” Stanchak said. “But we went from being toward the back of the pack in terms of the competition to definitely being right at the front. It really differentiated us.”

Naturally, TicketLeap isn’t done evolving. This January, they’re launching the “TicketLeap iOS Box Office,” a software suite that allows events of any size to handle almost all their on-site ticketing needs from iPhones and iPads. And they’re expecting that $35 million in ticket sales in 2011 to double this year.

Would they be here without BFTP?

“I honestly don’t think so,” Stanchak said. “They brought so much attention to the company. I don’t know if it would have been the same without them.”